Berlin called and the European Digital Pathology Community came to gather for the 13th European Congress on Digital Pathology from May 25th to 28th. The scientific program included 107 presentations and attracted 262 attendees from 25 countries. A poll during the keynote speech given by Horst Karl Hahn of the Fraunhofer Mevis showed that the attendees were split by half into pathologists and computer scientists.
Europe is picking up speed
A general feedback from many attendees both on the industrial and on the user side was that digital pathology is picking up speed in Europe, even if there are big differences between the single countries. While there is already a lot of activity in the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Spain, other countries like Germany have been more reluctant to the digitization in the recent years. According to John Maas, the General Secretary of the DGP, there is a massive increase of interest in digital pathology also among German pathologists lately, which is one of the reasons they took over this conference.(3) A big step for digital pathology in Europe certainly is the Foundation of the European Society of Digital Pathology that was announced on May 27th during the Report from the ECDP Council with Marcial Garcia Rojo as President.
Strong focus on image analysis
In the scientific program there was a strong focus on image analysis this time with three sessions covering Quantification, Tissue Modelling as well as Graphs & Topology with many of them introducing methods for automated ROI detection and quantification. A hot topic in image analysis is the use of deep learning algorithms and how they can be applied in digital pathology as shown e.g. in a presentation on “Deep convolutional neural networks for histological image analysis in gastric carcinoma whole slide images” by Harshita Sharma of the TU Berlin.
How innovations developed for research be adopted in clinical environments faster?
A panel discussion on Imaging in clinics and research chaired by J. Lundin (Helsinki, Finland) and G. Kayser (Freiburg, Germany) discussed how the clinical adoption of methods that are developed for research can be sped up.
Here are some of the main discussion points:
- Collaboration on Validation: The validation of systems and devices is a long and costly process. A multi-centric approach that helps sharing the effort and also the funding could speed up the validation process and by this help to implement innovations.
- More Pressure from the Pathology-Community: More pressure from the pathology community on funding agencies to drive forward innovation and a communication that highlights the benefits such as savings for healthcare systems in a consistent way. This could be achieved by more scientific studies that show how digital pathology will improve the quality and efficiency of care and lead to a better diagnose. Improved communication between industry and pathologists could support the development of tools that suit better to pathologists needs.
- Interdisciplinary diagnostic teams: In interdisciplinary diagnostic teams working with integrated data from multiple disciplines (e.g. radiology, genetics, immunology), pathologists could be the drivers of these team as the expert for medical imaging, since they really know what a disease looks like.
- Pharma Industry as an innovation driver: Pharma industry has a strong interest in detailed information and image analysis methods to be used in drug development and precision medicine. Pharma industry could provide the necessary investment to take digital pathology to a level where tools and systems are ready for clinical implementation. This development in precision medicine and individualized therapies might also create a need for higher precision in clinical pathology that can only be achieved by machines and not by the human eye.
- Big data and deep learning: A precondition to exploit the full potential of the digitization is the availability of common (big) data repositories, especially for the development of image analysis algorithms based on deep learning. The amount of training data is a critical factor for the success of deep learning methods. To provide such data the panel identified the need of a common data repository containing anonymous data that can be used for training and testing analysis tools. One way to this common repository could be a bottom up approach that integrates existing repositories vs a big top down initiative.
Image analysis on multiple slides in different stains
One of the main topics discussed during conversations in our booth was the following. Working with multiple slides of the same tissue in different IHC stainings is becoming more and more interesting, particularly in applications such as tumor score computation, biomarker development, or companion diagnostics. R. Røge from Aalborg University Hospital, Denmark presented a work on ”Validation of Virtual Double Staining for Estimation of Ki67 Proliferation Indices in Breast Carcinomas” using Stereology on slides stained in Ki67 and Pan-cytokeratin. In order to perform analysis on multiple stains efficiently, the digital slides need to be accurately aligned. In this interview, Andreas Keil, our VP of Business Development explains how our software Slidematch can be used as tool to automate the alignment of digital whole slides.
Which scanner is the best?
A hot event especially for the equipment manufacturers but also for users was the 3rd International Scanner Contest where manufacturers could bring in their top devices to compete against each other in the following disciplines: high throughput, quality, validated versatility, technical and image analysis. The results shall give a neutral and valuable insight into the market. They will be published here. Results of past contest are available as well.
More Information on ECDP16
More reports and impressions from Berlin can be found on twitter at https://twitter.com/ecdp2016.
Recordings of the sessions are available here: http://patho-wsi.charite.de/pub/ECDP2016/ECDP-DATA.htm
ECDP 2016 – Interview mit Jörg Maas, Generalsekretär Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pathologie e.V. (DGP): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYdN4ikrhsM
Upcoming Events in Europe
The next ECDP will be held 2018 in Helsinki organized by Johan Lundin and Jorma Isola. The next big European event coming up in September (25th - 29th) is the XXXI International Congress of the International Academy of Pathology and the 28th Congress of the European Society of Pathology ECP that will for the first time be organised as a joint venture. More Information